MUMBAI - India should use excess land held by government agencies to meet its goal of providing housing for all by 2022, experts and activists said, as the country struggles with rising conflicts over land for industry, infrastructure and its citizens.
The government recently launched a long-delayed process to sell 2,000 acres (800 hectares) of unused land belonging to unprofitable state-owned enterprises - known as public sector undertakings (PSUs).
The railways, ports, aviation and defence ministries also hold vast tracts of surplus land.
A portion of this land held by the government must be given to states to build housing for poor and low-income groups to meet India's goal of Housing for All by 2022, experts and activists said.
"The government says finding land is the biggest problem for affordable housing, but the government is sitting on so much land that is lying idle," said Shivani Chaudhry, executive director at New Delhi-based advocacy group Housing and Land Rights Network.
A spokesman for the ministry of housing said plans to create a land bank are on track.
"The government has asked PSUs how much unused land they have. Once there is a clear idea of how much land there is, the government will draw up a plan for its use," A. A. Rao told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"Affordable housing will be a priority."
A quarter of India's urban population lives in informal housing such as slums, according to social consultancy FSG.
That number is set to rise as tens of thousands of people leave their villages to seek better prospects in cities.
The government's Housing for All plan aims to create 20 million new urban housing units and 30 million rural homes.
Availability of land to meet this goal is a challenge. Conflicts over land have risen as demand grows for industrial and infrastructure projects to drive growth and boost development for India's 1.3 billion citizens.
Earlier this year, India's Supreme Court asked seven states why land bought for special economic zones is lying idle, after an advocacy group said about 80 percent of such land is unused.